At the first in-person commencement since April 2019, over 6,800 students were honored for their completion of higher degrees at Brigham Young University.
Elder S. Mark Palmer, a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke on creating a solid foundation in Jesus Christ.
Advising audience members on how to snap a good photo of their graduate, Elder Palmer applied the same photography principles of “focus, center and recenter” to a life centered on Jesus Christ.
Navigating crises without fear is difficult, said Elder Palmer. Nevertheless, using the examples of Nelson Mandela and Church leaders, Elder Palmer urged graduates to always focus on what they can control.
“You can control the way you treat others, especially those with whom you disagree. Focus on applying these radical teachings of Jesus Christ: Love your enemies. Pray for them which despitefully use you. Forgive all.”
“A Christ-centered life is being faithful to covenants. It is loving and serving others. A Christ-centered life rejoices in eternal family relationships. It prioritizes ‘the riches of eternity’ over the riches of the world. A Christ-centered life humbly accepts that ‘to be learned is good, if [we] hearken unto the counsels of God.’ A Christ-centered life is full of joy.”
Using an example from his personal life and referencing the mechanics of GPS, Elder Palmer exhorted graduates to keep recentering their lives on Christ.
“On our journey to eternal life, there will be times when we need to recenter our lives on Jesus Christ and His restored gospel. Recentering is a lifelong process,” he said. “I promise that doing so will lead to true and lasting joy.”
BYU president Kevin J Worthen explained the importance of the propinquity effect – the idea that relationships blossom from repeated closeness – and offered graduates three propinquity-increasing actions to take.
He recommended that graduates intentionally seek out in-person connections, have positive interactions with people they disagree with and draw closer to the Savior.
“The Lord’s promise that as we draw closer to Him, He will draw closer to us seems to extend beyond mere perception of closeness to Him. It points to the day, either in this life or the next, when we will see Him face to face — a form of eternal propinquity.”
Undergraduate speaker Emilee L. Carr encouraged fellow graduates to help others along the journey of life. Referencing examples from her life as a student and medical worker, she urged peers to aid each other on the covenant path.
“We are on the same sidewalk, we’re headed to the same place, and it’s not a race. So, if you’re crawling through an icy patch, don't be afraid to cling to the ones gliding until you get your footing back. If you find yourself skipping, look for someone sitting on the curb."
And for the times our path looks or feels empty, Carr reminded graduates “that some of our walking companions are celestial” and that “God will send [aid].”
Karen Bybee, president of the BYU Alumni Association, centered her remarks around the humorous motto of her freshman year dorm:
“If they can make penicillin out of moldy cheese, they can make something out of you!”
Bybee explained that Scottish physician Alexander Fleming, the first credited discoverer of penicillin, didn’t realize the full impact of his work. Nevertheless, his efforts have helped millions of people almost a century later.
“You may never shake the world with a monumental discovery like penicillin,” Bybee acknowledged, “but you most certainly will have an opportunity to ‘make something’ of yourself through diligent effort, a commitment to excellence and a desire to be that unique light that blesses the lives of others.” She concluded, “The world needs what you have to offer!”